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Education

Hard-to-Read Fonts Improve Learning 175

arkenian writes "Difficult-to-read fonts make for better learning, according to scientists. The finding is about to be published in the international journal Cognition. Researchers at Princeton University employed volunteers to learn made-up information about different types of aliens — and found that those reading harder fonts recalled more when tested 15 minutes later. The article goes on to note a second test in a real school environment: 'Keen to see if their findings actually worked in practice, the Princeton University team then tested their results on 222 students aged between 15 and 18 at a secondary school in Chesterfield, Ohio.'... 'Students given the harder-to-read materials scored higher in their classroom assessments than those in the control group. This was the case across a range of subjects — from English, to Physics to History.'"
Science

Zombie Ants and Killer Fungus 125

nibbles2004 writes "An article in the Guardian newspaper shows how parasitic fungi evolved the ability to control ants they infect, ultimately leading the ant to its death. The fungus controls the ant's movements to a suitable leaf and causes the ant to grip onto the leaf's central stem, allowing the fungus to spore, which will allow more ants to become infected."
Space

Scientists Discover Biggest Star 202

Hugh Pickens writes "Scientists at the University of Sheffield have discovered the most massive stellar giant, R136a1 measured at 265 solar masses, using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile and data from the Hubble Space Telescope. It's in the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small 'satellite' galaxy which orbits the Milky Way. Previously, the heaviest known stars were around 150 times the mass of the Sun, known as the 'Eddington Limit,' and this was believed to be close to the cosmic size limit because as stars get larger, the amount of energy created in their cores grows faster than the force of gravity which holds them together. 'Because of their proximity to the Eddington Limit they lose mass at a pretty high rate,' says Professor Paul Crowther, the chief researcher in the Sheffield team. Hyper-stars like R136a1 are believed to be formed from several young stars merging together, and are only found in the very heart of stellar clusters. R136a1 is believed to have a surface temperature of more than 40,000 degrees Celsius, and is 10 million times brighter than the Sun. Crowther adds that R136a1 is about as big as stars can get. 'Owing to the rarity of these monsters, I think it is unlikely that this new record will be broken any time soon.'"
Space

Black Hole Emits a 1,000-Light-Year-Wide Gas Bubble 145

PhrostyMcByte writes "12 million light-years away, in the outer spiral of galaxy NGC 7793, a bubble of hot gas approximately 1,000 light-years in diameter can be found shooting out of a black hole — one of the most powerful jets of energy ever seen. (Abstract available at Nature.) The bubble has been growing for approximately 200,000 years, and is expanding at around 1,000,000 kilometers per hour."
Idle

Growing A House From Meat 133

baosol writes "From the boundary-pushing team of archi-visionaries who brought us the fabulous Fab Tree Hab comes a new (and somewhat disgusting) way to grow a structure — using animal flesh! The In Vitro Meat Habitat is a futuristic concept home composed of meat cells grown in a lab. The creator of the concept, Mitchell Joachim, is a futurist with a twist– he says he is actually developing the concept in a lab."
Earth

Study Hints Ambient Radio Waves May Affect Plant Growth 298

dwguenther writes "A Lyons (Colorado) area woman with no academic pedigree has published a scientific paper in the International Journal of Forestry Research about the adverse effects of radio waves on aspen seedlings. Katie Haggerty, who lives north of Steamboat Mountain, found in a preliminary experiment done near her house that aspens shielded from electromagnetic radiation were healthier than those that were not. 'I found that the shielded seedlings produced more growth, longer shoots, bigger leaves, and more total leaf area. The shielded group produced 60 percent more leaf area and 74 percent more shoot length than a mock-shielded group,' she said." This was not a definitive study, as its author readily admits — it's hard to see how a double-blind study could even be designed in this area — but it was refereed.
Portables

Working Toward a Universal Power Brick For Laptops 365

An anonymous reader links to PC Authority with some hopeful news about untangling a persistent annoyance for laptop users — namely, the myriad power supplies called for by laptop makers: "'On a PC, an ATX power supply for example will screw into certain mounting holes, have a maximum size and shape, and will take a standard 3-pin "kettle cord" for incoming power. If it complies with these standards, the PSU will be able to bolt into any manufacturer's ATX case.' Laptop design, on the other hand, involves cramming a PC into a tiny chassis, which usually has its own thermal design and power distribution requirements. This has led to the somewhat bizarre situation where every manufacturer has its own laptop power supply design. It now appears that some of the major players in laptops are getting together to work on a standardized laptop power supply design. Not only are big players involved, but the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has created a team to work on the power supply standard."

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